Having a large stable of bluetooth controlled OGauge locos using the BlueRail Trains drop-in board, all of which perform amazingly well, I recently did a detailed performance comparison with LionChief Plus both in single and multi-trains mode. Based on this study, I have concluded that LionChief is well done and Lionel deserves credit for an excellent product line. LionChief is much better than an "entry level" product.
The Bluerail boards look pretty cool. How much do they cost? Does the track power have to be DC? You could put a bridge rectifier in the loco ahead of the bluerail board, correct?
Yes, the technology for LC/LC+ is cutting edge for this hobby and very flexible, and more reasonably priced than many other products, both from Lionel and other companies. A mark of how good it is might be seen in MTH's RTR catalog, where they never mention LC/LC+ but go after Bluetooth as if it were the failure of the century . Wi-Fi is so superior, according to MTH. Bluetooth has a good deal to offer if you insist on using your phone or tablet for control, but LC/LC+ is even better in my view, particularly if you like a physical remote. Not to mention that all Lionel locos have either LC/LC+ or Legacy, as well as Bluetooth, so this is an amusing disinformation/misdirection strategy on a competitor's part .
I own two LC+ locos with Bluetooth. Love them both.
I totally agree. Have four LC+ engines, plus one I bought for parts- might change out the electronics and Remote in it so I can have two PRR RS-3's.
I have 2 O-scale engines equipped with the BlueRail board, a Weaver RS3 and a Williams E7.
I run them using my Ipad, but I also have a Mad Catz Bluetooth (wireless) controller, ones like you see used on video games. Once I connect to the BlueRail App, I can run the engine using the Ipad or the Mad Catz controller.
I don't have an Iphone (gasp!) or I would use that instead of the Ipad (too big/cumbersome IMO), but the controller is small, lightweight, and easy to use. All that is required is that you add it to your list of wireless devices (on the Ipad).
It's limited in what it can do compared to the Ipad App screen, but you can control the engine speed/direction and activate the horn/whistle/bell.
To answer RoyBoy's questions re: BlueRail, the board was priced at $75.00, but is no longer available. My engines include all three power sources, track AC, track DC and battery. I used a bridge rectifier and a 15V fixed voltage regulator to feed DC to the board in the AC version. All of these versions run quite well.
I've been a bit out of the loop lately and not up to date on all the drama between manufactures and such. That said, in reply mostly to Landsteiner's comment, I suppose, from a technological stand point, there is no real difference between Wifi and Bluetooth. they both work in the same way on the same radio band and have equal reliability, bandwidth, and error correction for all practical purposes.
For the purpose of specifically controlling model trains or an entire layout, both systems have benefits and drawbacks as currently implemented. Bluetooth's biggest problem is that, by design, it is a point to point communication. it is intended for one device to talk with one other device. With the current generation of affordable bluetooth BLE transceivers, it's possible to have one master talk to 6-10 slave devices by rapidly opening and closing connections to each in a round robin, such as the way the Universal remote works, but it is not a practical system to control the countless devices found on an entire layout.
As I understand it, MTH's Wifi system still only acts as a bridge between DCS and a wifi enabled device, so it doesn't actually offer any functional difference over what DCS can do. That said, if a system was created where engines and accessories communicated directly over Wifi this would work quite well to control an entire layout. The shortcoming of this setup would be that the 'base station' would need to be fairly powerful compared to the electronics used in this hobby up to this point. A computer from 10 years ago would be more than enough, but even that level of tech and programing is far beyond what we typically see in the hobby. Direct Wifi communication is great for hobby level setups, but is not great for a commercial product as there are countless other radio standards for mesh networks that are cheaper and easier to use in a commercial setting.
Over all, Wifi and Bluetooth are pretty much the same thing, a radio that can do one can be reprogramed to do the other. Either one is better than sending data through the track, but as far as I'm aware, only Lionel's bluetooth implementation actually does this.
Excellent discussion by JGL which can clear up a lot of misinformation. One of the major differences between wi-fi and bluetooth is that bluetooth systems generally use app based smart devices as opposed to hand held remotes. This is a matter of personal preference, not technology. My detailed operating review on 3/20 of bluetooth vs LionChief compared these two control methods, but it was not a significant factor in the overall evaluation. The review did lead me to the conclusion that LionChief is a technically well designed product.